Slain: Back From Hell reminds me a lot of Konami’s Castlevania franchise with its dark gothic world and brutal combat. But with such titles it’s almost hard to match the best of the franchise. Slain for the most part succeeds, though, at what it’s trying to achieve.
The story of Slain follows Bathoryn who is awoken from his long mortal slumber to slay the villainous Lord Voll. Much like Castlevania Bathoryn must defeat Volls powerful lieutenants scattered across different lands to free them from the blight Voll’s and his minions control. It’s a simple story that comes with a twist at the end but it’s nothing too major. It’s not enough to call the story great, but then you aren’t exactly playing this type of game for its story.
Slain does a great job with its platforming and occasionally fun combat. As you transverse each realm, you will have to avoid some cleverly hidden traps and defeat hordes of enemies. The platforming itself isn’t too difficult, the worst of which will see you jumping on tiny moving platforms while fireballs and flying head monsters attack you, which can drive some people mad. Those who remember the Clocktower from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night will know exactly what i’m talking about. Thankfully these moments are few and far between.
With it being a 2D side-scrolling action game, I was expecting to find plenty of secrets hidden throughout the various locations, but outside of finding some medallion fragments there weren’t many to speak of. Actually there is only one hidden location in each of the maps, which was kind of a bummer but not a deal breaker by any means. It’s just a shame that the game is so straightforward
The meat of the game comes from its combat which is thankfully fun but also difficult when it needs to be. Slain doesn’t try to be more complex than the situation demands. You can strike, dodge, block, use magic attacks, and parry your enemies attacks. Each different region you explore introduces you to different enemies that require you to change the way you approach the encounter. As you progress through the game you will acquire a flaming sword and an Ice Axe and certain enemies can only be damaged by those weapons. Your flaming sword is the weapon of choice against witches while your steel sword is best against skeleton warriors. It may sound simple, but it can get quite difficult when multiple enemies with different weakness affinities attack at the same time.
The highlight of combat comes from the boss battles. Each boss is huge and intimidating but oh so fun to fight. Outside of one flying boss which drove me insane, the rest of them required a lot of dodging, deflecting, and good old fashioned trial and error. After defeating all of Voll’s lieutenants, I was shocked to experience just how easy the final boss was. It was actually very disappointing considering the difficulty of his lieutenants.
I should also mention that the game doesn’t have any sort of leveling up system or any sort of point system to be used in leaderboards. This simply means one thing: Once you finish it, there is nothing else to really do in it outside of trophy hunting. No different difficulty settings, no stage challenges, no costumes unlocked, nothing to speak of. It kind of made me feel like I wasn’t rewarded for even finishing the game.
There are some problems that come into play when it comes to the games hit detection. There were countless times that I would get hit by attacks that I know for a fact I deflected. Some enemies will shoot projectiles at you, and if you strike those projectiles right as they are about to hit you, you will deflect them back at the enemy. This didn’t always work like it was supposed to. There were plenty of times when I would swing my sword but would get hit by the projectile before it even reaches me, while other times it would deflect just fine.
This also becomes a problem when you parry your opponent’s attacks. When you block an opponent’s attack right as it’s about to hit you, you will parry it leaving them stunned and open to a brutal critical attack. But again doesn’t always work like it’s intended. Plenty of times I would block too soon but still get the parry attack, other times I would press the block button to parry the attack and it would just register as a block before the enemy even swings his sword to hit me. I encountered this plenty of times, and though it led to a lot of deaths it wasn’t too much of a problem thanks to the game’s plentiful checkpoints.
Slain is strikinging gorgeous. Its pixel art is of the highest quality and really shows in the small details and beautiful backdrops that you travel through. Each land is striking in its own way. Even the sewers look pretty damn good and I absolutely loath sewers im games. The characters and enemies are just as striking to look at. The witches have striking resemblance to the Crones from The Witcher 3 and burning hell hounds present some striking fire effects. Everything about the pixel art is just stunning.
The game features a heavy metal soundtrack penned by Curt Victor Bryant (formerly of the band Celtic Frost) and it works fairly well in most instances but isn’t really memorable. You can even head bang and rock out after defeating a boss in honor of the Great Horned Metal God, but none of it makes any sense. It’s completely out of place and just doesn’t fit in like heavy metal fit into Brutal Legend.
Slain: Back from Hell is a fun game. It’s not as difficult as I thought it would be or it probably should be, but that just makes it more accessible. The combat is fast and most importantly fun, even though it suffers from some bad hit detection. It’s world is dark and bleak, but boy does it look wonderful. It’s just a shame that once it’s done there is no reason to go back. Some players too may feel like the lack of leaderboards or a leveling system is a missed opportunity.